A northwest First Nation is accelerating its dispute with the federal and provincial governments over lands to be assigned to other First Nations as part of treaty deals by threatening to stop talking to natural gas pipeline companies.
In a release issued April 17, the Gitxsan say the two governments have no business providing lands they claim to the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum, two Tsimshian First Nations. They’ve given the two governments until June 21 to withdraw the offer of the lands that will make up final treaties for the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum.
The lands in dispute are to the east and north of Terrace.
Both the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum approved agreements in principle with the federal and provincial governments last spring, paving the way for final treaty negotiations.
“These offers by both governments are unconscionable and without proper notice to the affected Gitxsan Simgiigyet [Chiefs],” said Gitxsan negotiator Bev Clifton Percival.
She said a court case dating back to 2002 indicated the Gitxsan have grounds to lay claims to the lands.
And she said the Gitxsan aren’t even sure exactly how much of their 33,000 square mile territory is affected because they’ve never been presented with proper maps.
But the area does take up two of nine watersheds claimed by the Gitxsan, territory Clifton Percival said it would never surrender.
“In our language we don’t have a word for share or [land claims] overlap,” Clifton Percival said. “This is a biased process. They’re showing a bias and they shouldn’t.”
Clifton Percival did say there was provision for restitution for lands and resources taken but first, all of the parties need to be involved.
She said the Gitxsan frustration extends to the Kitsumkalum and the Kitselas, adding they’ve never spoken directly to the two Tsimshian communities. Tying its disagreements with the two governments to natural gas development is a way to express Gitxsan frustration of having the two governments willing to take Gitxsan land for others, Clifton Percival continued.
“We all have interests and we will defend our interests,” she said.
Three natural gas pipelines are planned to go through Gitxsan territory should their respective liquefied natural gas plants be built.
Two of those pipelines are meant for projects near Prince Rupert and the third, a looping of the existing Pacific Northern Gas line to feed proposed small scale liquefied natural gas plants at Kitimat.
The June 21 date is also National Aboriginal Day.